I tried something novel this year: I wrapped Christmas presents before 11:59pm on December 24. Last year's gift concealment strategy involved keeping everything sealed up in the Amazon boxes until Christmas Eve, but this year we're trying the hiding in plain sight tactic, in which we actually set everything out under the kids' eye, carefully hidden under a thin paper skin. So far so good -- William (age 2 on Christmas Day) has only unwrapped one present, and his siblings responded so clamorously that I think he has been scared off from the pile.
The gifts under the tree (or on the table next to tree, depending on what the junior strategists think is the safest location) is pretty enough, I guess, but in my heart of hearts I find I prefer leaving everything in shipping boxes. It's easy and low fuss, and low fuss is my gifting modus operandi. It's not that I don't like presents. I do, and I always appreciate receiving a gift. It's not that I don't like giving presents. I do, more as time passes and my children get older, and bonus points if I can find something just exactly right. But gifts always seem like an add-on, something gratuitous (in the finest meaning of the word). They seem like something that has to be remembered, instead of the main focus.
Back when we were all taking the Love Languages quiz, I found that my gift-giving inclination was precisely 0% while my quality time inclination was through the roof. That squares neatly with what I know of myself, and fortunately Darwin is similarly inclined, so our birthdays and Christmases are always peaceful occasions gift-wise (and in most other respects, too). And yet somehow my kids feel the urge to buy a present for every member of the family, which entails begging mother for hours on end to take you to Kroger or Kohl's or Meijer, pleeeease Mom? And it is a small but real sacrifice for me to take them, because I don't care. I am reluctant to have more small pieces of junk enter my house in the name of the Christ's birth, and yet I understand that the impulse to give to others is noble and must be honored and channeled in ways that do not involve my staying comfortably ensconced spending quality time with the couch.
But I find that I'm that way with much of the paraphernalia of Christmas. In past years we've bought our tree one or two days before Christmas. Our house is never bedecked with lights. There is no garland wrapped around the staircase, no stockings hung, and that's because these things really are unimportant to me. But they do have a stronger significance to the children, it seems, and so for their sake alone I try to at least facilitate their Christmas cheer. I am fortunate to have so many opportunities to achieve the small martyrdom of having to do something I don't really care that much about out of love for those who do care. This is, perhaps, my path to Heaven, and these days, it feels like the only way I might be getting to Heaven, because I don't really live a life of suffering and self-denial otherwise.
Thomas Aquinas on the Capital Vices
1 hour ago